Customer feedback is great - crucial even - for any business owner to receive. It's important that we understand our customers and are in touch with their ever-changing needs and wants.
Specific to our dance studios, I feel like it's especially important because we as dance studio owners tend to spend a lot of time developing policies, introducing new classes, hiring new teachers and providing exciting opportunities for our students - but often what we think is great for the customer experience isn't actually bringing them a lot of joy or satisfaction.
An example of this is eisteddfods. My studio did 7 to 8 of these a year, and I always tried to provide a 50/50 balance of "tough comps" - the big budget production, large venue and super-challenging competitors (where we don't always do very well with results), and smaller local "easier" competitions that we could dominate and excel at. It was only after a fortunately timed conversation with a bunch of my customers in our foyer one day that I discovered most of them felt like it was too many and 6 a year would be less inhibiting to their weekends, and I also found out that the students and parents alike preferred the more challenging competitions and felt like the smaller ones were a waste of time. Even if it meant winning less often.
So if feedback is so important, the next question becomes: How do we get customer feedback?
Online surveys can be fantastic tools for this, but they are RISKY, like playing with fire. Why? Because if worded wrong they can have a negative impact on customer satisfaction.
Questions like "What don't you like about our studio?", "Rate this teacher out of 10", "What is an area you think we could improve?", "Has your experience with us so far been a positive one?", and even worse... open questions like "Please provide some feedback for us about our dance studio"... all do something that is not good. They INVITE and ENCOURAGE the customer to SEARCH for a negative.
The phrase "We value your feedback" is a powerful one, and it is great. But we DON'T want to ask all our customers to sit there and rack their brains looking back on every disgruntlement trying to find where they're unhappy.
It also leads to skewed data anyway. Humans have a tendency to post-rationalise their feelings and studies have shown that many consumers base feedback on their emotional state at the time, and the brain seeks to rationalise by conjuring a reason - and it's not always the underlying cause of the dissatisfaction.
I also don't love anonymous surveys. I feel like customers hide behind the anonymity to air personal grievances and the feedback ends up more harsh that it would be otherwise. There is the argument that anonymity in feedback surveys is important in our industry because some parents might be scared to be honest in case it damaged the teacher-student relationship between us and their child. I can see validity to this argument, but I also think it's not so much a problem IF the studio has a strong culture and consistent values that purposefully separate and compartmentalise any parent (customer) interactions with staff, from students and how they are treated by staff... and let's be honest, this is ESSENTIAL for our industry. (We don't take it out on the kids if their parent is a late payer, a big complainer or a pushy dance demon.)
SO WHAT KIND OF QUESTIONS SHOULD BE ASKED?
What do you want to know? What will help you create policies that balance customer wants with studio efficiency, profitability and educational proficiency. What do you need to learn about your customers' experiences?
AND, which questions can PROMOTE positive thinking, shine a light on the GREAT things about your business, and help your customers see that all decisions in your business are being driven by your strong, established and regularly communicated VALUES and MISSION STATEMENT.
Here are some examples of questions that I think could be good to ask:
- How did you first hear about [Dance Studio Name]?
- What made you decide to enrol your child at [Dance Studio Name]?
- Our values, as written on our studio walls, are CREATIVITY, KINDNESS and EQUALITY [write whatever your values are]. What are two more values that you would love to see [Dance Studio Name] promote and prioritise?
- What is your child's favourite thing about coming to [Dance Studio Name]?
- It has been 2 years since we have adjusted our pricing structure to meet CPI increases and ever-growing costs of operation. We would love to be able to have more budget for improvements to the studio premises for a more comfortable experience for our students and parents as they wait, as well as updated equipment and high calibre guest teacher opportunities. As a valued customer, what price per class would help us provide a better experience whilst still remaining affordable for you and representing value? a) $13, b) $14, c) $15 and d) $16. ^^^^^this is an interesting one because it's a great way to give a heads up that you're needing to increase prices soon, and it provides the illusion of choice. Make option A be where you WANT to increase price to, and the other options higher. Don't provide an option for staying the same or lowering. Of course you will only increase the smallest amount mentioned in the survey, but it LOOKS like you listened to the customers and compromised with them. It's received MUCH better. Plus you get to see if customers actually are willing to pay even more - because if a majority choose B then you aren't charging enough.
Ask what you want to know the answers to, but ask it from a positive point of view, and make them specific - not open ended.
eg. of GOOD QUESTIONS: Who is your child's FAVOURITE teacher? What additional uniform item would you love to see added to our collection?
eg. of BAD QUESTIONS: Rate each teacher. What do you think about our uniform?
HOW TO SET UP A SURVEY?
I recommend Google Forms. It's easy. There's a bunch of YouTube tutorials out there for it. People trust Google brand, and it's easy for them to access. And you can just share the link by email.
I also recommend keeping it to less than 10 questions. Between 5 and 8 would be the sweet spot. You want it to be something that only takes your customers a couple of minutes.
The one thing you DON'T want to do is hand-write an invitation to your customers to nit-pick, search for negatives and focus on what they don't like about your business. Because once they a forced to think of something, then they write it, that becomes their reality. It reinforces and strengthens the negative. Suddenly things that weren't even bothering them much at all are now brought to the front of their mind, and after writing them, they adopt those thoughts and they become bigger than they ever were.
AND we don't want to over-empower the customer to the point where they feel entitled to always share their opinion and we ESPECIALLY don't want to let it seem like we are willing to let POLICIES be shaped by over-opinionated parents. So be careful you are asking for FEEDBACK not ADVICE. They are very different things.
Often, multiple choice is a better option because you can frame the answers and use contrast to show value, plus you can manage expectation by demonstrating the limited scope in the answers (eg. 4 performances per year, 5, 6, or 7... as opposed to 1, 4, 8, 12.)
WHAT QUESTIONS HAVE YOU ASKED BEFORE ON SURVEYS THAT HAVE HELPED YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMERS BETTER, AND GET BETTER INSIGHT INTO OUR YOUR BUSINESS IS BEING PERCEIVED?